Sonoma State University President Ruben Armiñana’s decision to support the opening of a DREAM Center for undocumented students struck controversy in the Associated Students meeting to approve a resolution for the center on Friday.
The goal of the DREAM Center would be to provide help with the AB 540 and other paperwork for the estimated 167 undocumented Sonoma State students in a welcoming and private environment. The AB 540 allows certain non-California residents to pay local tuition rates if they attended lower education in California for at least three years.
“The DREAM center has two goals. One: to have a place where they can be included. Two: To help DREAMers go through their process,” said Associated Students’ Executive Director Erik Dickson. “One of the issues is undocumented students don’t want to declare themselves illegal, so they should be able to do that in a safe and confidential place.”
The idea of having a place for undocumented students to receive help with their paperwork anonymously is not a new one. California State Universities Long Beach, Fullerton, Northridge, and Los Angeles all have DREAM centers.
Associated Student President Brandon Mercer and other Associated Students members are concerned about where the money for a DREAM Center would be coming from.
“If we don’t know where the money is coming from, how can we support it?” said Mercer.
Despite these controversies, according to Dickson, President Armiñana declared in a DREAMer’s conference in September that he wanted the DREAM center to be done before he retires at the end of the spring semester.
“Dr. Armiañana has already agreed that this is going to happen,” said Erik Dickson.
According to Associated Students, Arminana estimates that the DREAM center will cost $25,000 per year and plans to fund it through the general fund. Mercer said at the meeting that the only available space the school found for the DREAM center was a storage closet in the HUB.
“We can’t find any better place than a storage closet for these people that need help?” said Mercer.
Associated Students tabled the resolution, and added their funding concerns to the document. The resolution will be voted on again Friday.
Sonoma State University currently has some resources available for undocumented students. The webpage sonoma.edu/cals/ab540-undocumented has a list of Undocu-Ally trained staff members who can help undocumented students complete their process, as well as information about the DREAMers club on campus.
According to Griselda Madrigal Lara, a senior Chicano and Latino studies major and the president of the DREAMers club, a DREAM Center is very important and the right thing to do for Sonoma State’s undocumented student population.
“Research has been done on SSU students and some of the recommendations show that the center should be in Salazar Hall, next to the EOP office. There needs to be a conference room and a safe space for students to go for advice. There are many services that students would benefit from and the center would provide them; services like legal services, financial aid, and a study area,” said Madrigal-Lara. “I hope they can find a respectable place for it.”
The study Madrigal-Lara references was conducted by Stephanie Segovia, a graduate student at the University of San Francisco on the needs and assessment of undocumented students. In her study, a focus group gave recommendations on how colleges could better meet their needs.
On top of this, Lara has been conducting her own survey about the needs of undocumented students at Sonoma State and how they could be implemented at a DREAM Center. Lara would like a space where there could be a computer and privacy for students.